Life & Culture

Why American Honey Director Andrea Arnold Is The Blaze’s Biggest Influence

The French duo discuss the immense and ongoing impact the British director has had on their work

In a few short years, two cousins have become one of music’s most talked about acts, lauded for their beautiful and profoundly moving videos and their unique brand of electronic music that has been known to reduce its listeners to tears. Today, Guillaume and Jonathan Alric – better known by their stage name, The Blaze – release their highly-anticipated debut album, Dancehall. To coincide with this exciting moment, the enigmatic pair have taken over the Another Man website, presenting a series of five articles that shine a light on their extraordinary work.

Musicians though they may be, The Blaze’s genius transcends the audio realm. Their music videos – often as much of a talking point as the music itself – are stunning, short vignettes that portray the human experience with a goosebump-inducing beauty.

While Ken Loach is often cited as key inspiration behind the pair’s work, it’s actually Andrea Arnold who has most shaped their visual output. Best known for her 2016 film American Honey starring Shia LaBeouf and Sasha Lane, the British director’s earliest forays into award-winning cinema came with a triptych of short films – Milk (1998), Dog (2001) and Wasp (2003). Each received nods at Cannes, with the Danny Dyer-starring Wasp winning the 2004 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.

Andrea Arnold’s intimate and emotional portraits of human interaction were a huge influence on The Blaze. “I met her at the premiere of American Honey, here in Paris,” recalls Jonathan, still visibly enthused by the meeting, “She’s a very charismatic woman.” The movie ended up having a profound impact on the then-burgeoning work of The Blaze. “I didn’t really know what to expect – it’s three hours [long], with Shia LaBeouf who is a crazy guy!” he laughs.

For Jonathan, American Honey encapsulates everything that is special about Arnold’s work. “The things she explores in the movie are very close to the things we like to explore,” he says. “First, there’s youth – it’s a youthful story; the characters are crazy, partying, dancing and taking drugs; they are doing a lot of crazy stuff. You can feel that energy all through the movie.”

In a 2016 interview with The Observer, Arnold spoke of direction as a transformational force. “A film for me is a journey I have to go on,” she stated. “It starts with myself emotionally and moves outwards. I do make my films with a social eye. It’s not a huge thing, and I don’t want to ram it down people’s throats, but it’s there all the time in the way I feel and think. It’s just how I see the world.” That observational slant and emotional ride can be felt in The Blaze’s own work – but also, Jonathan argues, in the viewer’s reaction to American Honey itself.

“The way it’s shot, there’s a really, really poetic vibe in all of the shots – it’s really, really cool,” he explains. “At the end – I don’t know how the director made it so, but when you get out from the cinema, you feel some freedom. You don’t know where it’s come from; it’s really bizarre and rare, when you feel that kind of emotion. That emotion is a big influence on The Blaze.”